The Mervyn Thompson Affair: What a 32 year old controversy can tell us about the Chiefs scandal

First published on The Spinoff on 15 September 2016, part of its week-long coverage of the Mervyn Thompson Affair – the strange, powerful 1984 incident when six women abducted an Auckland university lecturer, chained him to a tree in Western Springs, and labelled him a rapist.

I think the six women who abducted Mervyn Thompson had a grand plan. As well as enacting vigilante justice on him for his alleged crime, I think they hoped to shock the country out of complacency about rape and sexism, and force a culture change. In light of a police and court system that responded inadequately to victims of sexual violence, and deeply ingrained sexism in New Zealand society, perhaps they convinced themselves that violence was the only rational response.

Thompson became a symbol, chosen because of his high-profile and respected status as a playwright and lecturer, to stand in for all men – or at least all rapists. It was a brutal invitation to see things from a victim’s perspective: men, imagine if this happened to you. It’s how many women feel, all the time.

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Dear Mamas Episode 5 transcript: Are we done having kids?

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on Emily’s blog. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen.

In this episode we explore how to know when you’ve had your last child. Holly is agonising over whether to have a second, Emily is pretty sure she’s done at two, but you never know… so we ask our friend Andrea (@MsBeeton) who has twelve (yes twelve!) children, why she kept having kids and how she knew she was finally done.

In the process, she breaks every stereotype we thought we had about people with large families, graciously endures our wide-eyed questioning, and we hold hands and agree it’s different for everyone and we’re all doing just fine. Huge and heartfelt thanks to @mamamuriel for the epic transcript.

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Review: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

This review first appeared on The Spinoff on 4 August 2016.

There’s something inevitable, natural even, about the way victims of sexual abuse can end up being blamed for what’s happened to them. Sometimes it’s so overt and egregious that we’ll all be outraged – like the Canadian judge who in 2014 asked an alleged rape victim why she couldn’t just keep her knees shut – but the rest of the time, it can feel normal, embedded in the very language, “the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as if womanhood itself were the cause of these things. As if the girls somehow, through the natural way of things, did it to themselves.” This idea, and Australian writer Charlotte Wood’s rage about it, is the fuel for her fifth novel, The Natural Way of Things, which won Australia’s big new prize for women writers, the Stella Prize, earlier this year.

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Interview: Emily Perkins

Emily Perkins Sunday Mag

In July 2016 I interviewed author Emily Perkins about her experience adapting Eleanor Catton’s first novel The Rehearsal for the big screen. Here’s a taste:

How well do you remember your formative years? If you close your eyes, can you transport yourself back to the time when you lived away from home for the first time, had your brain rewired by a charismatic teacher, practiced clumsy beginner sex and figured out who you wanted to be in the world?

Emily Perkins can. “You know how people think they might have a particular resting age? I think mine is probably about 24. I mean of course you change and life changes you, and thank God for that, but there’s something about that time of life that does fascinate me.”

The profile was the cover story in the Sunday Star Times magazine, Sunday, on 24 July 2016. You can read it here.

Review: The Mandibles – A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

This review first appeared on The Spinoff on 30 June 2016

In humans, the mandible is the largest and strongest bone in the face. In insects, mandibles are those freaky appendages near the mouth, used to grab food and fend off rivals. In Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, the Mandibles are an American family fighting to survive, including by fending off rivals for food, following the collapse of the greenback in 2029.

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Review: deleted scenes for lovers by Tracey Slaughter

This review first appeared on The Spinoff on 19 May 2016.

“It is possible to say it,” says one of Tracey Slaughter’s narrators in deleted scenes for lovers, steeling herself to name the cancer that is eating her body from the inside. She can’t bring herself to say it to anyone at the party she’s hosting, but she names it to herself, learning against the bathroom wall, drunk, after an ambiguous encounter with her boss, “feeling it move in her mouth the way it’s moved in her body.” The reader knows exactly what the diagnosis is, but Slaughter never puts the word on the page.

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Dear Mamas Episode 4 transcript: Sleep

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a monthly parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on Emily’s blog. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen.

In this Mother’s Day special we tackle one of the classic parenting topics: sleep! We don’t have an expert guest, because we’re just not ready to hear any more sleep advice! Instead we talk frankly about our own experiences with kids who don’t sleep, and offer our own gentle suggestions (never advice!) about how to support mums who are in this situation.

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An interview with Patricia Grace

My aim has always been to write about ordinary people and their ordinary lives.

Since becoming the first Māori woman to publish a book of short stories in English in 1975, Patricia Grace has always made a commitment to tell the stories of ordinary people and their ordinary lives. That just happens to be a political act when those people haven’t had a voice in literature before, and a revolutionary act when their ways of telling stories push the boundaries of conventional literary form.

Grace’s 2015 novel, Chappy – her first in 10 years – tells the story of a Japanese stowaway who finds himself integrated into a small Māori community before running away from his family to avoid capture as an “enemy alien” in WWII. It’s warmer and gentler than her earlier work, but no less political in its expectation that readers see Māori communities for what they are: strong, loving, resilient.

It’s shortlisted in the fiction category in next week’s Ockham Book Awards. Ahead of the ceremony in Auckland, I interviewed Grace from her home in Hongoeka Bay, Wellington. You can read it on The Spinoff.